Modern technology changes the living styles of people in so many ways including tourism. I used to buy a lonely planet, print out local map and the metro/bus map before a trip and now I just take a smartphone with me. I can find points of interest and directions to it on google map; I can search events near me on the days I am staying and rearrange my itinerary if the weather forecast isn’t in favor of my original plan; I can even translate German into English so I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. However, as powerful as a smartphone can be, it is crippled without a 3G internet support as most people wouldn’t pay for the outrageous international data roaming fee when traveling abroad. Even though, you can probably get free wifi access in your hotel and coffee shops, it falls short on the go. I list the 3 best known telecommunication service companies in Taiwan and guides to how to apply for a prepaid card with 3G internet service.
First, due to the government regulation, you need to provide passport and a secondary ID in order to apply for a prepaid card in Taiwan. The secondary ID could be a Visa, Tourist Visa, international student card, entry permit issued by Taiwan National Immigration Agency or an official photo ID of the applicant such as Social Security Card, Identity Card, or Driver's License, etc.
The second step is to select a company to purchase a prepaid card from. Now the question is of which company you should pick. The 3 best known telecommunication companies in Taiwan are Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile and Far Eastone. Let’s take a look of the signal reception: Chunghwa telecom was the only company that provided telecommunication service before 1996 in Taiwan, it has the best infrastructure built around the islands, as a result it has the best reception in rural areas or islands in Taiwan. The signal reception in cities among the 3 companies have no difference. You can compare the signal reception on this website: http://freqgis.ncc.gov.tw/pub_new/PublicMap.aspx
Except for the quality of signal reception, phone rate is another important factor of choosing a phone company. I listed 3G airtime rates and internet plans of 3 companies below:
Chunghwa Telecom: http://www.cht.com.tw/portal/en/Location
Taiwan Mobile: http://english.taiwanmobile.com/english/customer/serviceLocations.html
Far Eastone (Chinese only): http://www.fetnet.net/cs/Satellite/eCare/ShopCenter
PS: iTaiwan Government Indoor Public Area Free WiFi Access is available to foreign visitors:
you can present your passport or entry permit (for Mainland China residents) at a Travel Service Center located at any major airports, train stations or mass rapid transit (MRT) stations in Taiwan and give the service personnel your e-mail address. After the service personnel applies for an account number for you, you can use the account number to access the Internet at any major indoor public area in Taiwan free of charge.
Or you can simply go to the Taipei-free public Wi-Fi (TPE free wifi) website and register an account with your native mobile phone number. The TPE free wifi account can be used to log onto iTaiwan service. Have fun!